Another week, another two rollicking episodes of “Mr. Queen.” The show has just passed the halfway mark with episodes 11 and 12 having aired this past weekend, and it hasn’t slowed a bit in intensity or storytelling. “Mr. Queen” is treading new waters with a man’s soul in a woman’s body falling in love with another man, but it’s careful and considerate in its execution. What’s not to love? Here’s a look at what we loved (and the one thing we hated) about the latest quartet of episodes. I guarantee you’ll hop on the bandwagon right away.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 9-12 below.
(Note: due to the confusion in addressing Bong Hwan and So Yong, fans of the show have coined the term “So Bong” to refer to the two merging characters. I’ll be using So Bong to refer to our favorite Queen, and the pronoun “he” because this show is called “Mr. Queen” after all!)
1. LOVED: The extremely hot kiss
It’s no secret that dramas place great meaning and effort into crafting the perfect first kiss scene. There is, of course, the standard drunken kiss that the hero or heroine no longer remembers the next day, but for the most part, the first kiss is usually a momentous occasion. “Mr. Queen” flips this on its head. At the start of episode 9, Cheoljong (Kim Jung Hyun) kisses So Bong (Shin Hye Sun) to hide the fact that he was rummaging through his father-in-law’s house for the ledger that would incriminate the Andong Kim clan. Yet, instead of freezing wide-eyed with emotional music swelling in the background, So Bong grabs his face and makes out with him like there’s no tomorrow.
They go at it for a long time in front of her father, her cousin Byeong In (Na In Woo) who has a thing for her, and all the guards, who look super awkward. The moment is played for humor rather than romance. In fact, So Bong doesn’t even remember it the next day, leaving Cheoljong (who was 100 percent affected by that kiss) in knots.
This makes sense because neither of the characters are quite there yet. Cheoljong isn’t certain if he can allow himself to fall in love with the Queen. They’re in a Romeo-Juliet situation where their clans and political factions are at odds, and their feelings would only be used against them. For his part, So Bong’s in the middle of an identity crisis – he doesn’t know who he (or she!) is, and is still terrified at the thought of being attracted to a man, let alone Cheoljong. The kiss still serves a narrative purpose though. It lets a very drunk So Bong blow off some steam and get used to the idea of kissing a man, and it reveals to Cheoljong that he actually does care about his eccentric Queen.
The best part? Neither of them are uncomfortable around each other afterwards. The very next day, they’re both back to their respective shenanigans, only, now Cheoljong’s entire face lights up when his Queen appears.
2. LOVED: The fan/anti-fan distinction
So Bong might not love Cheoljong but he’s very protective of him. The next day post-kiss, our royal couple heads to the nearby village incognito for a meal. So Bong’s furious to hear the villagers insulting the king and Cheoljong agreeing wholeheartedly that he’s an incompetent ruler. So Bong yells at the villagers in Cheoljong’s defense and announces himself as a member of the King’s fanclub, or more like his anti-fan.
Later, when the king asks what “fan” and “anti-fan” mean, So Bong says a “fan” is someone who watches over and hopes for the best for someone. Cheoljong very seriously takes this to mean a spirit guide or guardian angel! As for the term “anti-fan,” So Bong says it’s someone who cares about another person even more than a fan does. It’s a hilarious bit of wisdom, all the more amusing because it’s true. Not liking Cheoljong has made So Bong care more about him that he otherwise would. If he saw the King as just another bro, or as someone he could be friends with, perhaps this entire relationship would have been different. But it was the antagonism on both sides that made this relationship come alive. Cheoljong was So Yong’s anti-fan, and So Bong was Cheoljong’s. And that’s what brought us here!
3. LOVED: The concubine selection
In other saeguks, concubine selection would be a cause of strife between the main couple. “Mr. Queen” demonstrates this struggle in Cheoljong’s and Hwa Jin’s differing views on the point. On one hand, it’s completely understandable that Hwa Jin is furious at the thought of the man she loves marrying yet another three women. As if it wasn’t hard enough to compete with one wife! Yet, Cheoljong’s perspective is also understandable. To free himself from the Andong Kim clan’s puppet strings, he needs power of his own, and there is no other way to get it.
It’s interesting that So Bong is more than happy to do the task, not just because Bong Hwan is girl-crazy, but because he doesn’t love Cheoljong and that makes him impartial. Right now, what Cheoljong needs is someone who puts his needs first. Hwa Jin isn’t prepared to do that, as evidenced by her giving away the ledger, that Cheoljong almost killed himself getting, to the Queen Dowager. Through an event as simple as this, the show demonstrates a crucial love lesson: that true love is selfless. It’s speaking the other person’s love language instead of only being focused on your own. Both Hwa Jin and Byeong In focus on their feelings first, which is why they can’t keep up with Cheoljong and So Bong’s relationship. Now if only they’d see that!
Love lesson aside, the show manages to make the selection hilarious. Our Queen imparts a sage piece of advice to Cheoljong, telling him not to consider the women as his property, because they belong to So Bong! Rather than backstabbing each other, we’re treated to a montage of So Bong having a fantastic time with the three ladies he picks out. And in classic bro fashion, he picks them out for the following reasons: sexy, cute, innocent. So Bong, never change!
4. LOVED: The love letters
“Mr. Queen” shows us just how confusing life was without telephones. So Bong’s up late and feeling frisky so he sends three letters to each of Cheoljong’s his concubines, saying “you up?” and asks the letter bearers to see how the king’s doing. The couriers chant “One for each concubine! Check on the king!” to remind themselves, but they hilariously forget the order after they bump into one of the eunuchs. Instead, they mix up the message to say “All for the king! Check on the concubines!” Cheoljong is very confused to receive the messages, but in light of his budding feelings he composes a heartfelt, lengthy reply.
So Bong, believing that one of his lovely concubines has written this for him, pulls on all his history books and plagiarizes poem after poem in his increasingly ardent responses. Cheoljong is surprised and delighted at the depth of the Queen’s feelings for him and they spend the entire night writing to each other. The equivalent of texting all night! And it’s so cute! Only, the Queen has no idea it’s Cheoljong who’s replying and treats him as usual the next day, much to poor Cheoljong’s confusion.
Other dramas might build a whole plot out of just this, but “Mr. Queen” uses this scene to make a point. If the kiss was about making Cheoljong wake up to the depths of his feelings for So Yong, then the letter-writing is about making So Bong realize what he feels for Cheoljong. He still doesn’t know that the person he spent all night trying to impress is Cheoljong, but once he does, he’ll no longer be able to deny what he feels. While Cheoljong needed a figurative slap on the head to open his eyes, So Bong needs his eyes opened much slower. He’s convinced that he could never feel anything for a guy, let alone Cheoljong. It’ll take more time and more proof for So Bong to get to where Cheoljong is, and what better way to start than pure unfiltered conversation without prejudice to get in the way!
5. LOVED: So Bong preparing the banquet feast
Much of the romance in “Mr. Queen” is wrapped in humor, but the point remains that Cheoljong and So Bong share the same love language: acts of service. Time and time again, these two have done things for each other, often without the other knowing, to ensure that they’re taken care of and that their needs are met. For example, Cheoljong ditches Hwa Jin upon hearing that So Bong’s fallen into a coma and stays with So Bong all night, So Bong carries Cheoljong out of the well (while So Yong’s body is on her period!), and more. Upon noticing Cheoljong’s determination to make the banquet a success, and Kim Jwa Geun’s (Kim Tae Woo) attempts to steal, destroy, and generally foul up all the ingredients for the feast, So Bong steps in as head chef.
Interestingly, despite So Bong mentioning in episode 4 that he loves the spotlight and can’t stand anyone looking better than him, he works behind the scenes here. None but the kitchen staff know the role he played in making the feast such a success. Hong Yeon (Chae Seo Eun) astutely notes that the Queen acted out of worry for Cheoljong, but of course Bong Hwan’s not going to admit that just yet!
It’s delightful watching this slow burn of both them falling for each other and building a relationship that feels grounded and real. They may not interact much in every episode, but both have fully-fledged lives of their own and take the time to watch over the other person. It’s a really mature depiction of love, beyond all the butterflies and blushing like in most romances. Neither Cheoljong nor So Bong have themselves or their lives (and in Bong Hwan’s case, his identity) fully figured out. But they’re here for each other and that’s going to matter most, given that ending.
6. HATED: The cliffhanger ending
This isn’t a real gripe and more of a “what just happened, I need more” because the cliffhanger for episode 12 was horrifying.
After trying so hard and having the feast go so well, everything seemed to be fine for Cheoljong. Then Kim Jwa Geun finally reveals his cards and brings Cheoljong’s own soldiers to him for execution for having forged their identities to conceal that they belonged to treasonous families. Cheoljong knows this; it’s why he picked them! But upon being confronted in public in front of everyone, he’s helpless. He tries valiantly to stand up, to be more than a puppet king for once, but he is laughed down by Kim Jwa Geun to his utter humiliation. He has no choice but to approve the execution of his own men, the men he handpicked.
It’s a devastating scene, agonizing to watch because of how well Kim Jung Hyun executes everything Cheoljong is feeling. Despair, fear, helplessness, humiliation – it’s all laid bare for the entire court to see, which makes it even worse. Cowed, the king concludes the feast on a pitiful note, reciting a prayer to the gods asking for a good harvest. Kim Jung Hyun is brilliant in this scene, weeping while reading the prayer but keeping his voice steady so no one notices he’s crying. It’s a powerful moment, and right when it appears that our poor defeated Cheoljong can head back to his quarters and cry his heart out, the pavilion explodes! Cheoljong is thrown back and very badly injured by the blast.
While everyone’s panicking and running away, So Bong runs toward Cheoljong but Byeong In steps in the way and the last we see of the king is him weakly reaching out for help.
Perhaps it’s because “Mr. Queen” has never taken itself seriously that this feels so dark and awful. It literally adds injury to insult in Cheoljong’s case. However, from a writing standpoint this is So Bong’s moment to wake up. Not just to his feelings for Cheoljong but to the fact that this really is life in the palace. Thus far, So Bong’s breezed by without considering any consequences beyond ingratiating himself to the Grand Queen Dowager. However, that’s about to change. Hwa Jin made it very clear that she’d like to kill him. The Queen Dowager has started using him as a pawn to knock the Grand Queen Dowager off-balance. Both So Bong and Cheoljong need an ally. And it’s finally time for them to admit that they’ve found it in the unlikeliest of places: each other.
What are your thoughts on So Bong and Cheoljong? Do you agree with how the romance is progressing? Let us know in the comments below!
Watch more information of upcoming drama “Mr. Queen (2020)
” at here